Sunday, January 30, 2011
What Happens When We Do Not Feel
When we do not feel, we have no choice, either we act in or we act out; either the force remains inside and gnaws away at our system, or the force is acted out in the form of neurotic behavior. In the latter, we are driven by the feeling to act-out and in the former we keep that force well-hidden and repressed.
If we want to know what are our hidden feelings look for the act-out. One actress I treated was constantly acting out on the set, “I will be anything you want. Just love me.” She would play any role the director wanted and played it well because love was at stake. She tried in every way to be loved by her mother, also an actress, but alas, it was not to be because her mother was also acting-out, running from audition to audition looking for approval/love. She had no time or interest in being a mother.
Or if we look at the act-in we note how deep is the symptom, how mid-line it is in order to see if it is first-line, very deeply driven, trauma. Colitis and ulcers generally inform us of remote pain. Is it migraine? Generally a matter of oxygen deprivation during gestation or birth where the blood system was the first line of defense against the trauma. Lack of oxygen meant conserving energy and oxygen supplies, constricting oxygen circulation until the constriction gave way to massive dilation and the propensity for a headache later on.
In events of stress, the prototypic reaction sets in immediately. It can be any stress where we feel under threat. This is due to resonance; the original prototype was coded and registered on higher levels as they came on line. When there is a current threat, the system retreats to origins which informs us how to react. It relies on the prototype to guide us and it relies on the original defense to protect itself. Even when that defense is no longer appropriate. It was appropriate back then. That is in essence, neurosis, acting in the present for something that was appropriate in the past. The aforementioned actress was trying to feel loved by her mother decades earlier, and did everything she could, with no reward. She still acts in the present that way; only now it is symbolic.
That is the key to understanding proper therapy now; we do not try to rid the symbolic from the system but rather use the symbolic behavior to see what feelings are being acted-out. And it is those feelings we must deal with.
To remain focused on the symbolic and trying to change it is a useless exercise because the person will only change symbolically, not organically. So we take the obsessive and try to treat her symptoms; helping her over her need to clean everything including the cans holding food in an obsessive manner. We no doubt could get her to stop by slapping her head over and over but is that therapy? But she is feeling, something is wrong and “I do not know what it is,” and so I will focus on making things right in the present. “That is why I have to hang all my shirts carefully in a row. I want things to be right; for there to be order.” This person may have lived in chaos in her early household. Something was terribly wrong but she never knew what it was. She will understand what is driving her if she can feel what she is really saying through her act-out.
Or we treat the phobia in elevators by walking hand in hand with the patient, step by step into an elevator. We are treating symbolism with symbolism and the patient will never get well. Yes, you might say the patient feels better, and you might be right, but he did not get rid of the terror inside that drove the phobia. Unless you think it is rational to fall into panic at the sight of an elevator. The elevator may well be the channel or focus for a panic during birth when being trapped and enclosed might have been fatal. Again, it is acting the present as was necessary in the past.
Let me state again that treating a symptom after the critical period is over, achieves nothing. The only help is actually to return to that critical period with the brain most developed at the time and enter into the critical period again where change can happen. After the critical period where love and nurturing was primary the only therapy is, as I have said, symbolic.
If we understand that there is a timetable of needs and a timetable for their fulfillment. Right after birth touch and caress are essential. No fulfillment right away and the person may be left with a lifetime fear of being alone (only one of many examples). The amount of pain felt now is commensurate with the need during the critical period. That is what makes terrible pain; need. After the critical period need is not nearly as important. Yes fulfillment is necessary but deprivation may not leave a residue of hurt for a lifetime; or it may not change organ or brain development.
When the critical period is ignored, many current symptoms are symbolic of that period. The treatment is, in short, neither organic nor systemic; and that is why there are no profound changes occurring. And that is why the therapy has to go on and on as in psychoanalysis. It only skims the surface. The patient thinks she is getting well because she has rented a caring parent. She becomes addicted to him or her. She is being “fed” symbolically; the doctor comes to need the patient as much as she needs him; a mutual symbiosis. They both feel better because they are symbolically filling their needs; he for approval, idolatry, and she for a caring not indifferent father. The therapy goes on, ad nauseum.
The truth is many patients want it this way; it is more human than Prozac and more in the flesh. They do not want to change; they want their neurosis to work. And now it does. The same may be said for the doctor. He is being adored, something his parents never managed to do with him. I treated one psychiatrist he cried, “My parents never cherished me. Never thought I was important.” His patients do. He too is being fulfilled symbolically.
Freud thought, as do many analysts, that one could analyze the transference and counter-transference(by the doctor)and get rid of those pesky needs. But it was just more cognitive nonsense, keeping it intellectual so no one has to really change. If we do not focus on need there will be no change; just as in any society that neglects need there will be no democracy. We are creatures of need. When society neglects need it must build compensations—hospitals and prisons; for bad things happen when we are deprived; and more medication for everyone. When a society or a parent fulfills need there is no longer a requirement for compensations such as pain-killing drugs. What dictatorships do is suppress need and then punish those who ask for fulfillment. The victims can never win.
So now we see that with pain we must act-in or act-out. There is never a choice; we may think we are free but we are aren’t. We are prisoners of history, chained to our past and can never undo the bonds until we visit that past again.
Review of "Beyond Belief"
This thought-provoking and important book shows how people are drawn toward dangerous beliefs.
“Belief can manifest itself in world-changing ways—and did, in some of history’s ugliest moments, from the rise of Adolf Hitler to the Jonestown mass suicide in 1979. Arthur Janov, a renowned psychologist who penned The Primal Scream, fearlessly tackles the subject of why and how strong believers willingly embrace even the most deranged leaders.
Beyond Belief begins with a lucid explanation of belief systems that, writes Janov, “are maps, something to help us navigate through life more effectively.” While belief systems are not presented as inherently bad, the author concentrates not just on why people adopt belief systems, but why “alienated individuals” in particular seek out “belief systems on the fringes.” The result is a book that is both illuminating and sobering. It explores, for example, how a strongly-held belief can lead radical Islamist jihadists to murder others in suicide acts. Janov writes, “I believe if people had more love in this life, they would not be so anxious to end it in favor of some imaginary existence.”
One of the most compelling aspects of Beyond Belief is the author’s liberal use of case studies, most of which are related in the first person by individuals whose lives were dramatically affected by their involvement in cults. These stories offer an exceptional perspective on the manner in which belief systems can take hold and shape one’s experiences. Joan’s tale, for instance, both engaging and disturbing, describes what it was like to join the Hare Krishnas. Even though she left the sect, observing that participants “are stunted in spiritual awareness,” Joan considers returning someday because “there’s a certain protection there.”
Janov’s great insight into cultish leaders is particularly interesting; he believes such people have had childhoods in which they were “rejected and unloved,” because “only unloved people want to become the wise man or woman (although it is usually male) imparting words of wisdom to others.” This is just one reason why Beyond Belief is such a thought-provoking, important book.”
Barry Silverstein, Freelance Writer
Quotes for "Life Before Birth"
“Life Before Birth is a thrilling journey of discovery, a real joy to read. Janov writes like no one else on the human mind—engaging, brilliant, passionate, and honest.
He is the best writer today on what makes us human—he shows us how the mind works, how it goes wrong, and how to put it right . . . He presents a brand-new approach to dealing with depression, emotional pain, anxiety, and addiction.”
Paul Thompson, PhD, Professor of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine
Art Janov, one of the pioneers of fetal and early infant experiences and future mental health issues, offers a robust vision of how the earliest traumas of life can percolate through the brains, minds and lives of individuals. He focuses on both the shifting tides of brain emotional systems and the life-long consequences that can result, as well as the novel interventions, and clinical understanding, that need to be implemented in order to bring about the brain-mind changes that can restore affective equanimity. The transitions from feelings of persistent affective turmoil to psychological wholeness, requires both an understanding of the brain changes and a therapist that can work with the affective mind at primary-process levels. Life Before Birth, is a manifesto that provides a robust argument for increasing attention to the neuro-mental lives of fetuses and infants, and the widespread ramifications on mental health if we do not. Without an accurate developmental history of troubled minds, coordinated with a recognition of the primal emotional powers of the lowest ancestral regions of the human brain, therapists will be lost in their attempt to restore psychological balance.
Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D.
Bailey Endowed Chair of Animal Well Being Science
Washington State University
Dr. Janov’s essential insight—that our earliest experiences strongly influence later well being—is no longer in doubt. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, immunology, and epigenetics, we can now see some of the mechanisms of action at the heart of these developmental processes. His long-held belief that the brain, human development, and psychological well being need to studied in the context of evolution—from the brainstem up—now lies at the heart of the integration of neuroscience and psychotherapy.
Grounded in these two principles, Dr. Janov continues to explore the lifelong impact of prenatal, birth, and early experiences on our brains and minds. Simultaneously “old school” and revolutionary, he synthesizes traditional psychodynamic theories with cutting-edge science while consistently highlighting the limitations of a strict, “top-down” talking cure. Whether or not you agree with his philosophical assumptions, therapeutic practices, or theoretical conclusions, I promise you an interesting and thought-provoking journey.
Lou Cozolino, PsyD, Professor of Psychology, Pepperdine University
In Life Before Birth Dr. Arthur Janov illuminates the sources of much that happens during life after birth. Lucidly, the pioneer of primal therapy provides the scientific rationale for treatments that take us through our original, non-verbal memories—to essential depths of experience that the superficial cognitive-behavioral modalities currently in fashion cannot possibly touch, let alone transform.
Gabor Maté MD, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction
An expansive analysis! This book attempts to explain the impact of critical developmental windows in the past, implores us to improve the lives of pregnant women in the present, and has implications for understanding our children, ourselves, and our collective future. I’m not sure whether primal therapy works or not, but it certainly deserves systematic testing in well-designed, assessor-blinded, randomized controlled clinical trials.
K.J.S. Anand, MBBS, D. Phil, FAACP, FCCM, FRCPCH, Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Senior Scholar, Center for Excellence in Faith and Health, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System
A baby's brain grows more while in the womb than at any time in a child's life. Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script That Rules Our Lives is a valuable guide to creating healthier babies and offers insight into healing our early primal wounds. Dr. Janov integrates the most recent scientific research about prenatal development with the psychobiological reality that these early experiences do cast a long shadow over our entire lifespan. With a wealth of experience and a history of successful psychotherapeutic treatment, Dr. Janov is well positioned to speak with clarity and precision on a topic that remains critically important.
Paula Thomson, PsyD, Associate Professor, California State University, Northridge & Professor Emeritus, York University
"I am enthralled.
Dr. Janov has crafted a compelling and prophetic opus that could rightly dictate
PhD thesis topics for decades to come. Devoid of any "New Age" pseudoscience,
this work never strays from scientific orthodoxy and yet is perfectly accessible and
downright fascinating to any lay person interested in the mysteries of the human psyche."
Dr. Bernard Park, MD, MPH
His new book “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” shows that primal therapy, the lower-brain therapeutic method popularized in the 1970’s international bestseller “Primal Scream” and his early work with John Lennon, may help alleviate depression and anxiety disorders, normalize blood pressure and serotonin levels, and improve the functioning of the immune system.
One of the book’s most intriguing theories is that fetal imprinting, an evolutionary strategy to prepare children to cope with life, establishes a permanent set-point in a child's physiology. Baby's born to mothers highly anxious during pregnancy, whether from war, natural disasters, failed marriages, or other stressful life conditions, may thus be prone to mental illness and brain dysfunction later in life. Early traumatic events such as low oxygen at birth, painkillers and antidepressants administered to the mother during pregnancy, poor maternal nutrition, and a lack of parental affection in the first years of life may compound the effect.
In making the case for a brand-new, unified field theory of psychotherapy, Dr. Janov weaves together the evolutionary theories of Jean Baptiste Larmarck, the fetal development studies of Vivette Glover and K.J.S. Anand, and fascinating new research by the psychiatrist Elissa Epel suggesting that telomeres—a region of repetitive DNA critical in predicting life expectancy—may be significantly altered during pregnancy.
After explaining how hormonal and neurologic processes in the womb provide a blueprint for later mental illness and disease, Dr. Janov charts a revolutionary new course for psychotherapy. He provides a sharp critique of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and other popular “talk therapy” models for treating addiction and mental illness, which he argues do not reach the limbic system and brainstem, where the effects of early trauma are registered in the nervous system.
“Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” is scheduled to be published by NTI Upstream in October 2011, and has tremendous implications for the future of modern psychology, pediatrics, pregnancy, and women’s health.